A fitting fete for the new king

All England Notebook: On Sunday it was Djokovic giving Nadal a taste of his own medicine.

By ALLON SINAI JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
July 3, 2011 23:42
2 minute read.
Novak Djokovich

Djokovich 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon victory over Rafael Nadal on Sunday should hardly be regarded as a surprise.

Yet somehow, there was something surreal and stunning about the Serb’s win over the Spaniard in the final on Centre Court.

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It wasn’t just that Djokovic beat Nadal, but he outplayed a player who wins many of his matches simply by virtue of the fear that he strikes into his opponents across the net.

And he did it playing Nadal’s own game.

Djokovic dictated play and unthinkably had Nadal at his mercy for much of the match, rarely gifting the Spaniard anything and frustrating his opponent by returning balls that would be winners against almost everyone else.

That is what Rafa usually does to his opponents, but on Sunday it was Djokovic giving him a taste of his own medicine.

The new world No. 1 spent four years in the shadows of Roger Federer and Nadal, reaching the latter stages of grand slam tournaments time and again, only to fall at the hands of perhaps two of the greatest players to ever swing a racket.

However, this year, all of that has changed, and any doubts anyone may have had regarding Djokovic’s pedigree were laid to rest once and for all with Sunday’s triumph.

No player other than Roger and Rafa has been ranked No. 1 since February 2004, but Nole has knocked the two living legends off their lofty perch with a remarkable run, winning 48 of 49 matches in 2011, lifting eight titles, including two of the past three majors.

He guaranteed himself the No. 1 ranking with Friday’s semifinal win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but he needed Sunday’s victory to prove that he truly is the world’s top player.

“We all know the careers of Nadal and Federer. They have been the two most dominant players in the world the last five years,” said Djokovic, who had reached the quarterfinals in 13 of 15 Grand Slams prior to this year, only going all the way once.

“Sometimes it did feel a little bit frustrating when you kind of get to the later stages of a grand slam, meaning last four, last eight, and then you have to meet them. They always come up with their best tennis when it matters the most.

“But it’s a process of learning, a process of developing and improving as a tennis player, as a person, and just finding the way to mentally overcome those pressures and expectations and issues that you have.

“I always believed that I have quality to beat those two guys. I always believed I have quality to win majors and that was the only way I could be here in this position.”

Despite his four straight wins over Nadal in finals this year, Djokovic had still lost all five of his meetings against the Spaniard in grand slam events until Sunday.

But there was a sense Sunday that a new era had dawned on men’s tennis, something the ever courteous Nadal was quick to acknowledge.

“He’s in the best moment of his career,” the Spaniard said.

“I am in one of the best moments of my career, but still not enough for him.

“I lost because I am playing against the best player of the moment, the best player of the world tomorrow.”


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